By Guest Blogger: Lauren Taus
We kept hugging, each of us deeply touched by the presence and the work of the other. I called Berni my “Hermana” and promised to see her again sometime. We felt happy and connected. This afternoon of work in a local community center was a salient highlight of the recent #TausTribe yoga retreat I led in Tulum, Mexico, and I’m certain my students feel the same.
We didn’t know what to expect when we boarded taxis at the beautiful beachfront resort for town, but within minutes, Berni, the director of the place, had us elbow deep in spicy chicken tamale filling. We must have made 100 tamales to feed the 40-65 locals that come for food everyday, and when we finished that project, we went on to teach her – all in Spanish – about composting for the garden.
Berni told me that no foreigners come to her center, and our desire to bring our support meant the world to her. It meant the world to me too, to all of us. When we finished our work, we loitered outside, playing with her son, eating brightly colored jello out of small plastic cups, and snapping selfies (some of which she posted on her FaceBook page).
Before arriving in Mexico, I knew I wanted to include a community service component in my Thanksgiving retreat. I emailed the staff at the resort months’ prior for ideas, and they were slow to respond. I passed their delay off as busyness, but later learned that I was the first group leader to make such a request. My heart sank. Service should be normative, not exceptional, especially among yogis!
Seva or service is a cornerstone to the yoga lifestyle because it helps individuals transcend the egoic self. When we are in service to others, we experience connection, compassion and empathy. We more quickly move out of our own little dramas, and into more empirical wellness. Studies demonstrate that people who volunteer have higher overall mental health and longevity than those who do not. The benefits of volunteering have been found to be greater than taking up exercise, attending religious services and even greater than giving up smoking. I look forward to integrating service in future retreats, and I hope you’ll join me in one!
As we move into the season of festive parties, gifts and all around excess, remember to find ways to give back to those in need. You know it helps, but sometimes you need a reminder. I know I do. This doesn’t mean you need to make any radical changes. I’m certainly eager to throw on a cocktail dress and sip champagne in the city, but my happiness depends far more on giving to others than on living the good life, and so does yours.
Lauren Taus is a writer, a life coach and a yoga instructor. She firmly believes in the mind-body connection, and in the ability for an improvement in one to benefit the other. Lauren helps her clients to develop the skills they need to make health and happiness easy in a complex world.